American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Fall on Rock—Lowering Error

Colorado, Eldorado State Park, The West Ridge

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year: 2007
  • Publication Year: 2008

On May 14, a climber (22) led Washington Irving (5.6), and at the top of the pitch, he clipped his rope into a fixed anchor. His partner began to lower him. When the climber was about 15 feet from the starting ledge, the end of the rope slipped through his belayer’s device, so the climber fell 15 feet, injuring his lower back.

Analysis

The lead climber and belayer should always tie into opposite ends of the rope, or else a knot should be tied in the rope-end opposite the leader. In either case, the rope-end opposite to the leader would not then be subject to slipping through the belay device. Alternately, the leader could have rappelled—with knots in the ends of the rope, so he could not rappel off the ends. (Source: Steve Muelhauser, Park Ranger)

(Editor’s Note: There were a half-dozen errors similar to this one reported this year.)

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